Why Minnesota has a sexually dangerous person law

The Minnesota Court of Appeals today provided a graphic account of why Minnesota locks up people after they’ve served their prison time under the theory that they might offend again.

The court ruled today that a man who has raped several women in the past, can be committed under the state’s program just for taking steps that, while not sexually violent under the state’s definition, mirror his pattern of behavior that preceded his previous violent behavior.

And what a past Timothy Joseph Crosby has. He raped two women in the ’70s, got out of prison, then tried to rape another woman, and was sent to prison for a fairly short period of time.

The Court of Appeals today didn’t bury the man’s past in legal niceties, describing his days of freedom after his first incarceration …

Before long, in April 1983, Crosby assembled a kit consisting of a gag, a blindfold, and rope, and then he drove around until he found a girl hitchhiking. He drove her to her requested destination, but then he put a knife to her ribs. He planned to blindfold and bind her hands before driving her to a rural area and raping her. And he imagined hanging her by her hands from the ceiling to facilitate his planned sexual assault. But she resisted, screaming and fighting for the knife. She finally wrested the knife from Crosby, cut him on the hand, and escaped from his car.

Crosby was reported and returned to the Minnesota Security Hospital in 1983 for more treatment. He continued to fantasize about rape and to constitute an “extremely high risk” to reoffend, but he was given passes to shop in St. Peter and the Twin Cities area. In early 1986, he again told treatment providers that he was no longer engaging in sexually violent fantasies, and he was provisionally discharged in June 1987.

If you’re keeping score, that’s just four years of incarceration for a man who’d already raped two women.

The Court of Appeals continued…

The month after his June 1987 release, Crosby brought a 21-year-old prostitute to his apartment. He choked her, tied her to a bed, taped her mouth and eyes shut, and raped her six or seven times over several hours. The victim eventually freed herself from the restraints and escaped after Crosby left her momentarily unattended. She tore through concealing cardboard and then broke through the window, which Crosby had nailed shut. She crawled outside and was found fleeing naked, bleeding from her hands and feet from their having been wired behind her back. Crosby pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct for this. Crosby’s plea agreement in that 1987 case is the focal point of this appeal. In it, the state dismissed a count of false imprisonment, agreed not to seek an upward departure at sentencing, and, most important here, agreed not to file a petition seeking Crosby’s commitment as a sexual psychopath or as a mentally-ill and dangerous person. The district court sentenced him to 41 months in prison. Crosby declined sex-offender treatment.

As part of the plea deal, Crosby got only a 41-month prison sentence and a promise from prosecutors wouldn’t try to commit him as a sexual psychopath or as a mentally-ill and dangerous person.

In 2000, he was fired as a custodian at the University of Minnesota because he printed pornographic material.

But in 2009, a story about him in a newspaper prompted a complaint from a woman who said her 17-year-old daughter was spending time with Crosby. So the cops searched his apartment.

They found several trunks containing a hacksaw blade and an array of newspaper articles about violent sexual assaults, including rapes, kidnappings, murders, and serial killings. They also found hundreds of pornographic videotapes, magazines, and books depicting circumstances and conduct resembling Crosby’s past violent sex crimes.

They also found books on how to rape and torture women. He also hired a 17-year old girl to have sex with a 24-year old woman while he watched.

For that, he got a two-year prison term.

But the judge let him remain free if he promised to follow directives for his sex-offender treatment.

Minnesota petitioned then to commit him as a sexually dangerous person but the Court of Appeals at the time overturned the attempt because “neither the probation agent nor the district court had specifically ordered Crosby into sex-offender treatment, making the revocation for failure to participate in treatment a violation of Crosby’s due process rights.”

In May 2011, however, a district court ordered him held until it determined whether he could be committed. Crosby argued, however, that the 1987 plea bargain prevented the state from trying to lock him up.

Today, the Court of Appeals rejected that argument, and it ruled what might have been obvious decades ago…

The district court was not presented with these facts in a vacuum; it received them in the context of Crosby’s history of already having engaged–repeatedly–in the kind of violent and criminal sexual conduct depicted in the disturbing material that, apparently, once again captivated him. The district court was aware that this same self-tempting, fantasy conduct had accompanied Crosby’s previous predatory sexual behavior. These facts do not necessarily prove, as Crosby maintains, “that he can be sexual and concurrently control his actions.” At the very least their description in the commitment petition along with Crosby’s past criminal activity alerts the district court that the question of renewed commitment is ripe. Crosby insists that this new conduct is not of the commitment-triggering violent nature of his former conduct because he had not acted on his fantasies. But having placed himself again on the self-tempting slippery edge, Crosby has no statutory reason to demand that the district court must wait for another fall before it entertains the state’s civil-commitment petition.

So Timothy Crosby is off the streets.

Here’s today’s full opinion.